History has its eyes on you

Julia Schuurman

More stories from Julia Schuurman

Inside my coat pocket, my thumb clutches the lock on my pepper spray. I hastily walk up the stairs to the Red Line stop and out of the corner of my eye, I see the same man who had harassed me on the intersection continue to follow me.

I can feel my heart begin to accelerate as my fight or flight instincts kick into overdrive. I take a moment to ground myself and scan my surroundings for an escape plan, as I had been taught to do as a little girl. My breath shortens, my hands shake, and I sure as hell know that I am terrified at this moment. A part of me wonders if the man following me feels fear like this too.

This man’s fear, however, likely manifests itself in a vastly different form.

As President Trump stated after Brett Kavanaugh’s rocky appointment into the Supreme Court, “It’s a very scary time for young men in America when you can be [found] guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.”

However, facts paint a different narrative. Although a movement of empowered females may make it seem as if women are jumping on board a trend to tarnish powerful men, the vast majority of sexual assault allegations are valid.

In fact, men are more likely to have been victims of sexual assault themselves than to have been falsely accused of it, according to the Huffington Post.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, only 2-10 percent of sexual assaults are falsely reported. The FBI’s number of “unfounded” rapes, or those proven to be false after investigation, is at 8 percent.

“I don’t think there’s an epidemic of good men being accused of wrongdoing by women, I think there’s an epidemic of women being sexually assaulted by men,” said Mr. Parsons, a psychology teacher at Lane.

Fear mongering on behalf of a president that has boasted about grabbing women “by the pussy” and currently has over 15 allegations of sexual assault against him, according to CNN, is not particularly surprising. But, it still needs to be put into perspective.

So let’s look at the numbers. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women will be raped at some point in her life compared to one in 71 men.

“The focus needs to be on the perpetrators, which are mostly men, but instead women often have to carry mace, keep only one earbud in, constantly check their back,” said Rose Murphy, a community activist and Women and Gender Studies Major at Depaul University. “Being seen as someone that’s a target and not a human being can be very disheartening.”

Women share the same ingrained lessons they’ve been taught by parents to keep themselves safe in case of an attack. Keeping keys between knuckles, having 911 pre-dialed while walking alone at night, being warned to never leave sight of your drink, the list goes on and on. Growing up in a culture that teaches women to constantly fear for their safety is toxic stress to have on their consciousness.

“I think it can cause them to have anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, etc.” Parsons said. “I have had students in my class who have been sexually assaulted, and because of that, they’ve had difficulty trying to process what they’re learning in the classroom,”

Unfortunately, more times than not, the effects of assault cut much deeper than most are willing to disclose.

“You don’t see the deeper consequences on the victim,” Murphy added. “You don’t see their traumas and how they linger and how it affects their brain.”

In fact, one of the worst ways to react to someone who has scraped up the courage to come forward is to question their intentions. Before you ask them if they’re lying, ask yourself: Why would this person want to subject themselves to such ridicule?

Ms. Feuer, an English teacher at Lane who introduced the Women in Lit class to Lane in 2007, has been discussing #MeToo with her students, even before the movement had a name.

“Do we say to people who are pickpocketed, ‘Did you make a false accusation?’ Do we say to people who are carjacked, ‘Was that a false accusation?’ No. Why would somebody want to put him or herself through that?” Feuer said.

The image of a random hooded man grabbing a girl and raping her in an alley is far too common in our fear-conditioned minds. In reality, however, eight out of ten victims knew the person who sexually assaulted them.

Sometimes, sexual assault becomes so normalized in our culture that it can be hard to call out even when it’s occurring right before your eyes.

That familiarity is uncomfortable. It may have been the guy who sits across the room in English class or your ex-boyfriend that you see after 6th period every day.

This is why it’s difficult to come forward and put a name and a face to ugly actions. It makes mutual friends uncomfortable. It makes school administration feel like they have blood on their hands. It turns some against you, and it undoubtedly shows the true colors of everyone around you.